It was 7 days prior to this year’s Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic and the weather forecast was calling for 40mph south winds and heavy rain. After 10 plus years of running the contest, I had gained enough experience to not enter panic mode, yet. There had been several years where the week prior to the event, the forecast was predicting glorious sunshine and fun waves. However, the surf gods would change their minds at the last minute and send us scrambling to deal with the first big storm of the year. So, when this year’s contest director Lisa called asking if I had seen the incoming storm, I crossed my fingers and said, “it’s got time to change, I’ve got a good feeling about it”.
I don’t know why I said it. Maybe it was the years of seeing it switch from good too bad at the last minute, and thought it was time it worked in our favor. Or it could be the confidence I had that most of the contestants didn’t care what the conditions were either way. Each year they would suit up, put on a smile, and paddle out into whatever the ocean gave us. Many of them have been competing in the contest for years, some have even been here for all previous 22 events. As surfers in Oregon, we paddle out in far more bad days than good ones, and they weren’t about to pass up a chance to participate again. As our good friend John Newman told me days before we tragically lost him in a car accident, “the contest is my favorite weekend of the year, it means so much to me and my family, thank you for continuing to put it on”. The contest was going to happen, and I think John had something to do with making it the best one yet!
Each day we got closer to the event the forecast would improve. What was predicted as the opening of the winter storm season, now called for an extension of summer. Warm weather and plenty of sunshine greeted this year’s participants for Friday night’s registration party. The band Ground Swell, fronted by longtime NW surfer Pat King, started the evening off right by playing a mixture of classic surf tunes and singalongs like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Drinks were being served up from The Pelican Brewery and Juneshine Hard Kombucha, while burritos from Ben & Jeff’s kept people from getting hungry. As the sun began to set, everyone gathered on the beach for a traditional paddle-out in honor of John. It was also to pay our respects to two other long time contest participants and pillars of our surf community, Ben Cockcroft from Seaside and Gary Gregg of Pacific City. Both we lost in the last two years when we couldn’t run the contest and properly say our goodbyes. It was a beautiful evening filled with love and warmth for our friends and their families.